Blazing - Book One: Into the Wild

Seasons ago, Bluefur refused to give up her kits, and Thistleclaw became deputy in her place. Thistlestar leads his clan cruelly, greedy for land. In his territorial rage, he chases away and injures young kittypet Rusty. RiverClan rescues Rusty and accepts him into their clan, but while he just wants to learn the ways of his clan, he finds himself in the middle of a desperate war.

https://www.fanfiction.net/s/11615947/1/Blazing-Book-One-Into-the-Wild

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5. Chapter 3

"Oakheart is dead!"

Rusty was suddenly awoken by the desperate wail. He blinked, raising his head quickly. For a moment, he forgot where he was, until everything came flooding back. Thistlestar attacked me, and I ended up here. RiverClan saved me.

Then what he had heard hit him like a stone. Dead? Rusty's eyes widened with horror. Had Thistlestar murdered Oakheart?

With a glance, he could see that Mudfur was not in his den. Rusty rose, and blinked as he noticed sticky-white webs stuck to his leg, where he'd been scratched. Sniffing at it, it smelled like the herbs in the den. Mudfur must've put there.

Rusty padded from the den, slowly, hoping not to attract attention to himself. It was well-past nightfall- moonhigh, perhaps- but many warriors were still awake.

Crookedstar emerged from his den. "What?" he demanded. "Oakheart can't be dead!"

A smoky-black tom and pale brown tabby she-cat were dragging a limp body behind the rest of their small group. Gasps of horror rose from the clan.

"Who did this?" Crookedstar demanded, rage creeping into his voice. "Who?!"

"No one," Dawnbright murmured, head low. "Well, Darkstripe chased him under a rock, and they started fighting… I think they jostled smaller rocks that were supporting it. But Oakheart pushed Darkstripe out, and before he could get out from under it…" She swallowed. "He was crushed by it. That's why it took us so long to get back- we were digging him out."

A young silver tabby pressed herself to Crookedstar's side, murmuring quietly in his ear. A sob shook Crookedstar's body before he ordered, "Bring him to the center of camp. We'll share tongues and bury him in the morning."

"Oakheart was Crookedstar's brother and closest friend." Mudfur was suddenly at Rusty's side, and the young tom jumped in surprise. "That she-cat is Silverstream, Crookedstar's daughter."

Rusty felt a wave of sympathy for Crookedstar, and he was saddened himself. I never got to thank him for saving my life. He watched as the two cats carrying his body pulled him into the center of the clearing and laid him there gently. One by one, cats came forward, pushing their muzzles into Oakheart's fur and murmuring before turning away. "What are they doing?" he whispered to Mudfur.

"They are mourning," Mudfur explained, his voice thick with emotion. "It's how we say farewell before Oakheart's spirit travels to StarClan. After each cat takes their turn, those closest to him will stay the rest of the night beside him, sharing tongues for the last time before he is buried."

StarClan? Rusty wondered what that was, but felt it would be inappropriate to nag Mudfur anymore. After a moment, he tentatively asked, "Can… can I go up?"

Mudfur glanced at him oddly. "Why ever would you?"

Rusty looked at his paws. Did I say the wrong thing? "I just- I wanted to thank him. If he hadn't stopped Thistlestar, they would've killed me."

"That's very kind of you," Mudfur murmured, though he sounded a little surprised. "But I think you should wait until everyone else has gone before you do. They won't take well to it."

Rusty nodded. I owe Oakheart thanks, he thought. He died after saving me.

He waited patiently as each cat padded forward to say goodbye, and Mudfur left him for a moment to press his muzzle to Oakheart's side. When he returned, he sat beside Rusty quietly. After each cat had gone, Mudfur nodded to him. "Go on. Don't let them think you are afraid."

Rusty gulped and nodded before standing and padding closely. A few cats hissed, but none moved to stop him until he was nearly to Oakheart. The black tom stepped in front of him. "What do you think you're doing?" he hissed.

"I wanted to thank him," Rusty mumbled, before recalling Mudfur's words. He raised his head, looking the tom in the eye. "Let me through, please. He saved my life."

The tom blinked, surprised, but didn't move.

"Let him pass, Blackclaw," Crookedstar rasped. He was sitting near Oakheart's body, Silverstream still at his side.

Blackclaw scowled before stepping away. Rusty padded closer, staring down at the dead bracken-colored tom. Oakheart's ribcage looked like it had collapsed, and his spine was bent at an odd angle. What a horrible way to die. He crouched low beside Oakheart, and realized the camp had fallen silent as each cat stared at him, watching his every move. "Thank you," he murmured. "You saved my life. I'm sorry I can't repay that to you." He touched his nose to Oakheart's side before quickly backing away.

The accusing glares and angry mutters seemed to fade as Rusty backed away. Maybe I did do the right thing, Rusty thought hopefully. He returned to Mudfur's side, who gave him an approving nod.

Crookedstar pressed his muzzle to his brother's pelt for a few long moments. Then, he raised his head, gazing solemnly around his clan. "Because it is already moonhigh, I must name RiverClan's deputy immediately." He paused, appearing to be thinking. "I say these words before the spirit of Oakheart, and hope that he approves of my choice. Leopardfur will be RiverClan's next deputy."

A dappled golden she-cat blinked and raised her head, before rising and padding forward. Rusty studied her curiously. Deputy? Is that like… the second to the leader? Leopardfur seemed cool and composed as she padded towards Crookedstar. She then dipped her head. "Thank you," she said. "I am honored."

The clan, despite their grieving, threw back their heads and yowled their congratulations. "Leopardfur! Leopardfur!"

Mudfur raised his head proudly, yowling as loudly as he could. Rusty blinked, but again felt that it may be inappropriate for him to call her name with them. As the cheering died away, Mudfur licked his chest fur, ears red. "That's my daughter," he purred. "She used to be afraid of water, and now look at her!"

Crookedstar stared down at the body of his brother before looking up again. "There is one more thing I wish to do." he fixed his gaze upon Rusty, who stiffened. Was Crookedstar going to change his mind and kill him? "Rusty," he said. "Please come forward."

Rusty blinked, but rose again and padded towards the tom. "Y-yes?"

"I would like to invite you to join our clan," Crookedstar meowed. Instantly, RiverClan was yowling in surprise and protest. He lashed his tail. "Silence! Oakheart saved this kit before he died. Will you disrespect him before he has even been buried?"

Many clan cats frowned or stared at their paws guiltily.

"Now," Crookedstar went on. "This kittypet, despite his origins, shows promise. He escaped Thistlestar's claws and fled through the forest, a great feat for a cat his age that has been raised lazily." Rusty bristled slightly at the words before he realized there was no malice behind them. Glancing around, he could see a few cats nodding in understanding, though others muttered unhappily. "He then crossed the river with Dawnbright- something few outsiders would willingly do."

"He wasn't too afraid, either," Dawnbright piped up. "I mean- he was scared, but he didn't argue."

Crookedstar nodded at her, and Rusty felt grateful for her defending him. Crookedstar looked back to Rusty. "Rusty," he asked. "Will you accept? You must understand, training will not be easy, especially since you have not had the conditioning our kits have had. You have not swam in the river before today. You've never hunted for your clanmates or said thanks to StarClan. If you are a part of RiverClan, you must work to make these all a part of your life. Will you join RiverClan?"

Rusty was silent for a long moment. What do I say? I don't know anything about this life. For a heartbeat, he considered refusing, but he then realized that wasn't what he wanted. If I go home… if I even manage to get home… I'll never be satisfied. He thought of his dreams, the itch in his claws and pull in his paws that led him to the forest in the first place. He didn't want to be fat and lazy like Henry.

"Though the training will be hard, the rewards are great," Crookedstar added, when Rusty had not spoken. "You will remain a tom, unaltered by the Cutter. You will have the loyalty of your clanmates by your side, should you earn it. You will know true honor and pride as a warrior, if you make it through training."

"The Cutter?" Rusty echoed.

"You've seen lazy kittypets, no doubt?" Crookedstar asked. "When toms- and she-cats, too, I hear- are old enough, twolegs take them to the Cutter, and they are never the same. They can no longer bear kits, but they also lose any drive or motivation. They sit in the sun and care little for anything but eating and sleeping. That is your future if you return to the Twolegplace."

The vet, Rusty realized. That's when Henry changed! Though he had already made up his mind, he was certain now. "I-"

"This is ridiculous!" a white tom interrupted, growling. "You can't be serious! Look at that thing around his neck! That fish-brained bell will alert our enemies and bring twolegs here, even if your retched stench doesn't first!"

Rusty flinched at the unexpected hostility. The white tom was now standing, sneering at Rusty. "You will just eat twice your share and work half as hard as anyone else! We all know kittypets, altered or not, they're useless!"

Rusty flinched again, and then was aware of Dawnbright at his side. "Whiteclaw smells your fear," she hissed. "Are you going to back down from a challenge?"

Rusty narrowed his eyes. Whiteclaw was now turning to address the clanmates behind him. "Are you going to let this happen?"

"Are you going to give up so easily?" Dawnbright hissed.

Rusty bunched up his muscles and sprang, clearing Oakheart's body and colliding directly with Whiteclaw. Having his back turned, the tom hadn't been expecting the attack, and fell, screeching. The two toms wrestled, rolling across the clearing as they clawed and bit, fighting for dominance. Cats jumped back to avoid the fighting toms.

Rusty felt his claws year satisfyingly through one of Whiteclaw's ears, and the bigger tom backed away for a moment, shaking his head. Then, eyes filled with fury, he leaped forward and snatched Rusty's collar in his jaws. The young tom felt a horrible jerk, and suddenly, there was intense pressure against his throat. Rusty squirmed and pushed, desperate for air, before pulling back in one strong jerk and-

Snap!

Both cats tumbled back as Rusty's collar ripped apart, and dangled limply from Whiteclaw's jaws.

"Stop!" Crookedstar finally yowled. "StarClan has spoken its approval! Rusty has lost his collar in a fight for his honor."

Whiteclaw glared at Rusty as the younger cat stood. The white tom spat out the collar, ear still bleeding.

Rusty turned back to Crookedstar, now full of determination. "I want to join RiverClan."

Crookedstar nodded. "From now on, your kittypet life is no more. I name this young cat Firepaw, in honor of his bright orange pelt, and the fiery determination that led him to survive today."

Firepaw was pleasantly surprised by the number of cats who cheered for him. It seemed that his fight had won most of them over- only a few, including Whiteclaw, glared silently.

As the cheers died away, Crookedstar went on. "Dawnbright, you will be mentor to Firepaw. Though you've not had an apprentice yet, you've proved yourself to a capable warrior, and I trust you will pass along all you know to him."

The ginger-and-white she-cat padded up to Firepaw. "Touch noses with me," she whispered. "It's custom."

He obliged, and as they touched noses, there were a few more congratulatory calls.

"Tonight, you will sleep in Mudfur's den, since it is late and you already have a nest," Croonedstar decided. "In the morning I'll have someone show you around camp. The clan is dismissed."

As Firepaw padded towards Mudfur's den, a few cats called to him on their way to their dens.

"Hey, Firepaw!"

"Good name, that!"

"Great fight, too!"

Firepaw purred proudly, murmuring his thanks before retreating to the den. As he settled back in his den, he felt oddly comforted. I'm Firepaw now, he thought, closing his eyes. I'll miss Smudge, and everyone else back home, but this is my life now. With a small smile, he thought, I wonder what Graypaw or Thistlestar would think of me now.

 
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